The Advantages & Disadvantages of the Phonetic Approach

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Pronouncing words phonetically is the method of sounding out words based on the letters used in their composition. Using phonetics in the teaching process can be an effective way to teach someone your language, but it does have its downsides.

Many words do not have a phonetic spelling and sometimes it is difficult to pronounce long words phonetically.

Alphabet Familiarity

Using the phonetic approach in teaching a language can help students memorise the alphabet quickly. Teaching the alphabet phonetically introduces students to the sounds associated with each letter. You may give the students a few examples of words involving that letter. For example, you may make the phonetic sound for the letter "A." You would then mention words like "act," "apple" and "also" to help students link the letters to words that make the "A" sound.

Basic Word Recognition

There are many words you can spell and identify by sounding them out phonetically. Introducing children and adults just learning English to the phonetic style can help them sound out words and gain a fast understanding of the simpler words in the language. The phonetic approach allows people learning to read a language to identify words they are not familiar with at first. For example, a person who is familiar with phonetic pronunciation of the words in a language can identify words such as "bus" and "help" if he is lost or in need of assistance.


Unfortunately, not all words have phonetic writing, which can lead to mispronunciation for students who don't know how to handle these words. Phonetics, for example, uses the letters "P" and "H" to make an "F" sound. Someone trying to sound out the word phonetically would mispronounce the word severely. This can be exceedingly frustrating for someone trying to learn how to read a language. Once he learns the phonetic method, he may feel discouraged when he learns of the numerous exceptions.


When taking the time to sound out a word phonetically, the reader can sometimes lose track of the overall message of the text. Interrupting your train of thought to stumble over a word can make reading repetitive and unappealing. For example, say you are reading a medical text and you are keeping up with the meaning of the text pretty well until you encounter the word "Cyclospariasis." Taking the time to try to sound out this word can cause you to forget the information in the sentence you were reading.